Copper tarnishes. It gets blotchy, it doesn’t do well in the dishwasher. It requires a bit of elbow grease to keep copper mugs looking clean. Even still it’s not all that hard and doesn’t require to much maintenance.
One thing is for certain though, if you already own (or are planning to buy) a set of copper cups, Moscow Mule mugs, or glasses then you need to take care of them by hand otherwise they’ll start looking a bit old and dirty in short order.
The first thing I had to research after buying my first set of copper drinking mugs was how to keep them clean. I knew I wasn’t supposed to put the mugs in the dishwasher but I didn’t really know why. It didn’t take long for me to understand that the dishwasher wasn’t necessarily bad for the copper but for the nickel lining in my original set of mugs – the dishwasher decreased the durability of the mugs’ lining dramatically and caused the lining to start chipping off. For a couple reasons this is bad, it exposes pure copper on the interior of the mug (not good) and it simply looked bad.
Dos & Don’ts
Needless to say copper Mule mugs are not dishwasher safe but they are very easy to care for by hand. All you have to do is clean them with a sponge (or dishcloth) and use a mild dish soap after every use and they should hold up really well over time, but simple hand-washing may not exactly keep your mugs looking great when they are not in use or over the long haul without the occasional polish. They may still look dingy over time despite regular hand washing because copper can tarnish even when it is clean.
In my home I tend to hand-wash my copper mugs with a soft sponge and regular dish soap and then let them air dry on a drying mat and then every now and then I apply a pure kitchen grade copper cleaner in accordance with their directions. Most people use kitchen copper cleaners on their copper bottom pots and pans but they work just as good on kitchenware like glasses, mugs, and tumblers.
Optional Tarnish Control
One really popular copper cleaner sold to owners of mule mugs all over the place is Wright’s Copper Cream. It ir super cheap, lasts a long time, and does great at eliminating tarnish. Of course the DIY method – rubbing lemon across the surface – may work just fine too.
I have an article published on this site that reviews some of the best copper cleaners for pots and pans. These should be perfectly fine for use on your copper cups. And if you don’t like polishing you can easily get away with normal soap and water washing most of the time with only the occasional polish job. You’ll likely never tell the difference.